Tonight I attended a lecture given by Dr. Rodrigue Mortel, about the poverty and devastation of present day Haiti. Mortel was born and raised in St. Marc, Haiti, where he strongly believed and practiced education. With the support of his mother he was able to graduate from Penn State Medical School, and in 1985 he was named the assistant director of the Penn State Cancer Center. To add to his accomplishments he became a Roman Catholic Deacon, and created the Mortel Family Foundation. As a child of Haiti, Mortel understands the importance of education; therefore, he opened a school called Les Bon Samaritains. The students who attend Les Bon Samaritains are hand selected from the poorest and economically deprived areas of Haiti. Mortel focused on the aspect that the school provides two meals a day. This is key because without food in schools, students fall asleep and do not learn. Dr. Mortel hopes that the children from his school can grow up and make Haiti a better place.
Although Haiti is the poorest country in the Caribbean, Haitians are filled with love and joy. Dr. Mortel’s lecture definitely taught me not to take things for granted. We watched two videos and this particular story stuck out in my mind. A girl who volunteered at a school distributed crayons to a class, and the kids were afraid to color with them. This was because they value their education so much, that they were afraid to not follow what the teacher was doing and be creative. After hearing this story, I was in awe because I certainly do not think of my education like these young Haitian children do. Instead like many American teens, I think of going to school as something we have to do. However, seeing education through other eyes makes me realize the importance of it and not to take it for granted.
Along with this, last summer I vacationed in the Dominican Republic. I learned the same lesson from my experience there because instead of staying at a hotel, my parents and I stayed with friends at their house. The house was in Cabrera, which was not a touristy town, so I went to the same beaches and ate at the same restaurants as the locals. Seeing first hand how they were so happy, yet had so little really made me think about all I take for granted.
Along with valuing their education, Haitians value their faith too. Mortel made the comparison of the number of Christian priests in Haiti versus Baltimore. Haiti has roughly around forty-five priests to Baltimore’s five hundred priests. This means that for every fifty thousand Haitians there is only one priest. This is shocking when we think of all the other priests around the world.
It was not until 1974, when Dr. Mortel realized he had to go back to Haiti and make a change. Since then he has come along way and relayed his mission over to us. His mission is comprised of education, evangelization, service, and partnership. Mortel’s mission definitely parallels the Jesuits mission here at Loyola. As Loyola believes its students and faculty will benefit by living out its mission statement, Dr. Mortel also believes that his mission will continue to benefit Haiti.
Tonight’s event relates back to the summer reading requirement, Mountains Beyond Mountains. Tracy Kidder told the amazing story of Paul Farmer, a doctor specializing in Tuberculosis who helped try cure the world. Farmer mainly practiced in Haiti overcoming many obstacles to help the sick. Even though he could not save everyone, his generous devotion made a difference for Haitians who had nothing but hope. Like Farmer, Dr. Mortel dedicates his time to helping those in need. The two refuse to give up and that is what makes them so special. Paul Farmer never cured the whole world or even Haiti, but for the lives he did save it mattered. Everyone should look up to these two caring and unselfish men.
Dr. Mortel is so thankful for where he is today. He speaks up about the hardships of Haiti because he once faced them. Ways in which we can help those who are suffering in Haiti are through pray, spreading Haiti’s message, volunteering there, and sponsoring a child for a small donation. He knows tackling Haiti is a difficult challenge, yet he will not give up.
It will take years before Haiti can limit the amount of poverty and economical troubles it faces today. A country with no sewage system, no electric, an unemployment rate of eighty-five percent, and where one of five children will die before the age of five cannot change over night. Dr. Mortel has made progress in Haiti, but knows there are endless amounts still to be made.